Monday, May 30, 2011

An Incident From Back In The Day

When you work at an airport you get to see a lot of interesting things. I have witnessed near miracles and near tragedies. This following story falls some place in the middle.

I was working day shift with the usual band of odd balls. In OAK there are 32 gates. SWA has 12 of them. On any given night there are 22 aircraft that spend the night, as a result we have to move up to 10 planes each night to our remote parking area. When this incident happened there were were fewer gates, a total of 27 of which we at SWA used 11.

We were not the only game in town and there are other airlines that also push their planes off the gates at night. One of those airlines was American Airlines (AA no longer flies into Oakland). After all the SWA planes had been brought to the gates we noticed a commotion over by the MD-80 which AA has parked out on the ramp over night parking.

I rolled out there with my buddy SkyWalker and the nose gear on the MD-80 was pulled out of the strut.

The picture above is how she looked when we got there. When I worked at Delta we used to move MD-80s around with bag tugs, but that was not going to do it for this bunch of idiots! The contract ramp company had hooked up a wide-body tug that looked like it could have pulled the airport terminal building itself across the ramp up to this poor little MD-80.

The communication between the cockpit and the tug driver was not what I would call ideal. It seems that the aircraft brakes were set when the tug driver decided to FLOOR IT!!!

As a result the plane did not budge but that was not going to stop this gigantic tug. The tug proceeded to pull the nose tires/lower strut completely off the plane!

Well as you would expect all the AA big brass managers were all standing around scratching their heads. There was a lady who I assume to be the top OAK manager who asked my pal SkyWalker to stop taking pictures of the plane so naturally in fine SWA fashion he started taking pictures of her instead.

The AA Go-Team or Top notch Mechs showed up a few hours later with airbags and lifted her up.

That part was pretty interesting. The huge bags were inflated and they put in a new strut and the plane was gone the next day.

When she was up off the ground they put some chocks under her from the contract company that did the damage in the first place.

These types of things are happening all the time at airports. I have probably forgotten way more things like this than I can remember but I'll get with SkyWalker and see if he remembers any more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Black Clouds

As a person who goes to work a lot I will be the first to admit that the majority of the days/shifts I spend at work are pretty unremarkable. Things break and we get them fixed. So why is it that the only days that you remember are the days that the "black cloud" comes out and hovers over you. For example: One night when I was working midnight shift I was assigned two or three planes (I don't remember) and it was raining. My assigned planes were pretty clean on the white board. The white board is where all our planes for the night are written down and any work that is to be done on the  plane is written next to the AC number. The problem with the white board is that once the plane is terminated those nice "clean" planes become a nightmare of pilot write ups and items found during your walk around.

As usual when its raining two of my planes were arriving at almost the same time and both remoting out to Tango. The first one comes in and when I got up stairs the pilot was writing in the log book (not a good sign). He tells me that the FO's windshield wiper is inop, "has been the whole day." One of the long standing jokes in maintenance is that those windshield wipers only seem to break when its raining outside!!  I parked that plane and went back for my second one which had a forward position light out on it. Usually not a problem but like I said it was raining.  I knew from experience that changing a fwd position light in the rain means that, no matter how much rain gear you have on, you are going to get wet.

The following week the black cloud seemed to stay with me. Most of the gate calls I went on turned into huge events with delays and cancelled flights. I grounded a plane on Monday with a Weather Radar problem that I had never seem before. To my amazement I grounded another plane on the following Thursday with the same issue. PSEU lights, Up Lock sensors, Stab Out of Trim lights they all seemed to follow me all week long.

  The last thing was the aft lav issue. I had a gate call that was reported to be a lav switch intermittent. When I get up there I figure out pretty fast that the toilet itself has to be replaced. Of course it has been messed up for like three or four legs now so its full of stuff.  To make sure the problem was not the switch I had to take the cover off which flew out of my hand and directly into the toilet. To make matters worse when it hit the stuff in the toilet the stuff splashed up and went all over the front of my speed suit. Like a trooper I soldiered on and had to take half the wall apart, the cover for the shut off valve apart, the frozen in place mount bolts out.

About this time the FO decided to come to the back of the plane to argue with me about holding passenger boarding. Of course the new toilet had to fight me going back in.

I am headed back to work tomorrow and I hope that the black cloud is gone by then. The work is the same work that I do everyday but on those days when the black cloud is following you the everyday jobs turn into a grind.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spending Money

Last weekend I had an opportunity to assist three guys who were changing a C-Duct (a thrust reverser half) on one of our planes.This plane had been down for two days now costing the company big money. TR halves are very expensive (about half a million bucks I've been told) so we were spending some money that day. These guys had the old TR half off by the time I got out there. I was just going to snap a few pics and be on my way but since I had never changed one before I wanted to check out what they were doing.

Rare sight. No fan cowl and no core cowl!

It turns out that I was able to help out a little with the installation of the new TR half.  It was really windy that day so it was good that I hung around. When Brooklyn picked up the TR half  the with the fork lift the wind caught it immediately and it took two of us to steady the thing while it was positioned.

The different slings and hoists that are engineered to accomplish jobs like this always amaze me. The set up they sent for this was a chain hung from the forks on the fork lift going to a block and then to a pole that connects into a big C shaped frame that connects onto the C Duct.

Muscling the new C Duct in

Those guys got the old C Duct off and the new one on in about two hours! That's a pretty good time. I learned a little along the way and except for the wind it was a very smooth job.